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Crashes on S.C. 901 prompt lower speed limit in Rock Hill

Reacting to a string of car crashes over the past several months, the contractor in charge of widening S.C. 901 convinced state officials to lower the speed limit to 35 mph until work wraps up.

The change - speed limits had been 45 and 55 mph in some spots - is aimed at curbing dangerous conditions on a busy stretch linking southern Rock Hill and Interstate 77.

"We had people in the community raising concerns," said Earl Capps, a spokesman for U.S. Group. "They were the driver in this. There was too much traffic going too fast."

At least six crashes have been reported, Capps said. None caused major injuries or deaths, but the concerns were enough to prompt action.

Crews are widening S.C. 901 to four lanes from two in a $13 million project funded through "Pennies for Progress," York County's 1-cent sales tax program for roads.

Work is slated to wrap up in late summer, four months behind schedule because of rain and cold weather that hampered progress. The state will decide on a permanent speed limit when the project ends.

For now, drivers must navigate a maze of orange barrels in a construction zone lined with residential driveways and side roads. Supply trucks make regular runs during work hours.

A 'pretty fast' road

One Saturday afternoon a month ago, Patrick Kelly was standing outside Nichols Store with some buddies when he watched a truck turn from S.C. 901 into the path of an oncoming driver. The resulting three-car pileup caused minor injuries.

One of the trucks was loaded with firewood that spilled all over the road. Kelly helped pick it up.

"It's pretty fast," he said of S.C. 901. "You've got a day care right down the street, a softball field right here. There's a lot of reasons (to lower the speed limit) just right in this area."

From the front window at Nichols Store, cashier Dory Stillwell can see cars whizzing past as they travel to and from I-77.

"People fly through here," she said. "With all the congestion, it's hectic. We all talk about how crazy they are."

Police have already begun enforcing the new speed limit. One of Stillwell's co-workers volunteered that she had been pulled over a few days before for driving 10 mph too fast.

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